We advise all readers, as well as their friends and family, to beware of Facebook ads that promise a “$3,600 stimulus for homeowners.” The posts featured pictures of U.S. President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and members of Congress.
The ads gave the appearance that Biden and the U.S. government voted through a plan to provide $3,600 stimulus check payments to help homeowners. The pictures and text perhaps looked and felt similar to the previous COVID-19 economic impact payments and child tax credit payments that Americans became familiar with in 2020 and 2021. Those payments came directly from the Internal Revenue Service.
However, there is no federal plan to distribute $3,600 stimulus checks to homeowners.
Facebook users who clicked on the ads were led to websites that were not operated by the government. From there, they all appeared to lead to a central page: GovHomePrograms.com. This website included a brief survey that asked questions about finances, home value, and mortgage status. The forms also asked for a name, email address, phone number, and mailing address.
We filled out the forms and were then led to one or more lenders that could help future homeowners to buy a house or current homeowners to refinance a mortgage. There was no evidence that the Facebook ads led to a way for homeowners to obtain a $3,600 stimulus payment from the government.
The Facebook pages and their corresponding websites were all brand new and had been created in November 2021. Another page named Helpers Today also pushed similar ads about a “stimulus for homeowners.”
Several hours after we started investigating Clever American Choices, its Facebook page became unavailable. It’s unclear why this happened within those few hours and not at any time in previous weeks. According to its advertising information, Clever American Choices was “deleted” after violating Facebook’s advertising policies. It had spent at least $45,209 on Facebook ads between Nov. 21 and Dec. 7.
$10 Billion in Assistance
After we clicked on one of the Facebook ads and landed on a website, we noticed this message at the bottom: “THIS IS AN ADVERTORIAL AND NOT AN ACTUAL NEWS ARTICLE, BLOG, OR CONSUMER PROTECTION UPDATE.”
We also found a list of “disclaimers” in small print spaced far below the end of most of the body of the page that was meant “for Facebook reviewers and 3rd party fact checkers.”
One of the lines attempted to clarify why words like “government” and “Biden” were used in the copy:
5. “Government” , “Biden” , “New Administration” , “Relief” – assume multiple citations below from the following article:
“Biden’s $10 billion in financial assistance is expected to be available in 2022.”
It’s true that the Biden administration previously created a Homeowners Assistance Fund that’s meant to “provide states with $10 billion to help struggling homeowners catch up on their mortgage payments and utility costs.” It’s also true that the assistance was still being given out by various states as of November 2021. But nowhere in this plan did we find anything about a $3,600 stimulus plan for homeowners in the same way that past stimulus checks worked, as the Facebook ads appeared to hint at.
One of the posts on Clever American Choices originally read: “This was featured on FoxNews [sic] last night. All I did was enter my zip and now I’m getting $3,600 back in savings. It was free to check, Just Enter Zip!”
A seemingly endless number of Facebook users then submitted their ZIP codes in the comments under the ads instead of on the resulting website, perhaps believing this would lead to them being contacted to receive a $3,600 check.
Aside from the ZIP code comments, the remarks with the most likes caught our eye. For example, a user named Jackie said: “This was featured in CNN yesterday so I guess I could try it since my neighbors already got theirs.”
We found no record of CNN or Fox News recently broadcasting news of a specific $3,600 stimulus for homeowners. Also, no one’s “neighbors already got” a $3,600 stimulus check payment, because they don’t exist.
Ben commented: “Wow! I’ve never seen anything like this before! Thank god that I saw it today so I can signup.”
Matt remarked: “Heard about this program form [sic] my neighbor. They got the check yesterday so I tried it and received a notification that my check will be here this week!”
It’s unclear if these people worked for the websites or companies that were affiliated with the posts.
BBB and AARP
We reached out to the Better Business Bureau and AARP for comment on these ads and websites. The Better Business Bureau responded and told us that this is what they would refer to as a classic “government imposter scam.” In a study, they found that these sorts of scams increased in 2020 and 2021 with the COVID-19 pandemic. They also sent over a page about government grant scams and a scam alert about stimulus checks.
In sum, the “$3,600 stimulus for homeowners” Facebook ads simply appeared to be a way to route future homeowners to lenders or to show current homeowners where they could refinance their mortgages. With the Better Business Bureau’s guidance on identifying this as a “government imposter scam,” we have rated this story accordingly with the “Scam” rating.
This story will be updated if we receive a response from AARP.
Advance Child Tax Credit Payments in 2021 | Internal Revenue Service. https://www.irs.gov/credits-deductions/advance-child-tax-credit-payments-in-2021.
Biden Signed $10 Billion in Mortgage Help for Homeowners. Do You Qualify? https://finance.yahoo.com/news/biden-signed-10-billion-mortgage-133000243.html.
Economic Impact Payment Information Center | Internal Revenue Service. https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/economic-impact-payment-information-center.
“Fact Sheet: Biden Administration Announces Extension of COVID-19 Forbearance and Foreclosure Protections for Homeowners.” The White House, 16 Feb. 2021, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/02/16/fact-sheet-biden-administration-announces-extension-of-covid-19-forbearance-and-foreclosure-protections-for-homeowners/.
Goldstein, Matthew. “Mortgage Bills Are Coming Again. $10 Billion in Aid May Arrive First.” The New York Times, 18 Nov. 2021. NYTimes.com, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/18/business/mortgage-assistance-homeowners.html.